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President Obama Announces Merrick Garland as Supreme Court Nominee


After weeks of speculation, President Obama officially announced Wednesday, March 16 at 11 a.m. EST in a press conference that he is nominating Merrick Garland to take the place of Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Scalia, who had been a staple on the court for 20 years, passed away in February.

Currently, Garland’s job title is the chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where he was appointed by President Bill Clinton. The president spoke to a small crowd at the White House and shared why he picked Garland for the coveted spot, stating he is “widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness and excellence.”

Garland, who was visibly emotional during his brief speech on Wednesday afternoon, gave the crowd an idea of his style as a judge. “Fidelity to the Constitution and the law has been the cornerstone of my professional life” he stated. The Obama administration has touted Garland by promoting the fact he has more federal judicial experience than any other Supreme Court nominee in history. Garland has served 19 years on the D.C. Circuit Court.

Before he became a judge, Garland was a top Justice Department official and also a partner at law firm Arnold& Porter. Garland’s career truly began to take off in 1994, when he led the government’s prosecution of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols for the Oklahoma City Bombing. After working on this high-profile case, Garland supervised the investigation of “Unabomber” Theodore Kaczynski and the bombing at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

At the age of 63, he is older than most Supreme Court nominees, which some have speculated was a strategic move by Obama to show he was not trying to create a decades-long stronghold. He is considered a “moderate,” but many in conservative circles have hailed him as a liberal and voiced several concerns about his nomination.

One of the biggest arguments from conservatives against Garland is that he is very liberal when it comes to ruling on gun control issues. The National Rifle Association’s, or NRA, Executive Director Chris Cox voiced his displeasure with the nomination on Wednesday, saying,

“he (Garland) does not respect our fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense.”

One of the loudest voices against Judge Garland is Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY., a senate majority leader. McConnell was ready with a response within minutes of the president’s announcement, stating he would block Garland’s nomination as he previously stated a month ago. “The American people are perfectly capable of having their say on this issue, so let’s give them a voice. Let’s let the American people decide. The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the nominee the next president nominates, whoever that might be,” McConnell said on Wednesday.

Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz released a statement about the nomination Thursday, explaining that it is standard protocol for the White House to reach out the Senate and Judiciary Committee leadership to set up introductions with Judge Garland. He explained “Senators Reid, Grassley and Leahy have all taken us up on this offer, while Senator McConnell has stated he will not meet with our nominee. [Friday], Judge Garland will head to Capitol Hill to meet with Senator Leahy at 2:30 p.m. and Senator Reid at 4 p.m. The meeting with Senator Grassley will occur after the recess.”

For a nearly a decade, the conservatives have held a relative strong-hold in the Supreme Court. With the death of Scalia, the court was evenly split between four conservatives — Roberts, Thomas, Alito and Kennedy — and four more liberal judges — Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan. The nomination would give a slight advantage to the liberals, something that is sure to be contested by members of the GOP.

“I simply ask Republicans in the Senate to give him a fair hearing, and then an up-or-down vote,” President Obama said on Wednesday. “If you don’t, then it will not only be an abdication of the Senate’s constitutional duty, it will indicate a process for nominating and confirming judges that is beyond repair.”

Photo courtesy of Tim Gill/Flickr

The NY Times, USA TODAY and CNN contributed to this report

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President Obama Announces Merrick Garland as Supreme Court Nominee